Seltzer Law Defends Internet Users Slammed With Subpoenas for Alleged Illegal File Sharing

January 9, 2012 by David S. Seltzer

I’ve occasionally written here about my work as a cyber crime criminal defense attorney defending people accused of illegal file-sharing. As longtime observers of file-sharing and downloads know, the RIAA, the music industry organization, has been pursuing downloaders for some time by filing lawsuits hitting them with very steep fines for allegedly violating copyrights. The movie industry has more recently started doing the same thing, with a slew of lawsuits getting publicity last spring after judges agreed that multiple defendants can be joined in the same file-sharing lawsuit. Now, many clients are starting to come to Seltzer Law for help when they received subpoena notices from internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast, AT&T or Verizon. These notices are often confusing because they say the ISP has not yet identified you — but it will if you don’t act.

A typical ISP notice like this one says the plaintiff — the company or organization filing the lawsuit, and its law firm — has filed a lawsuit. That lawsuit is usually in Washington, D.C., regardless of where you actually live. The notice goes on to say that you are a defendant in this lawsuit because the plaintiff has identified you as someone who illegally downloaded a movie or shared it with others. The identification is based on your IP address, a unique identification number attached to your computer or the modem you use to get online. Thus, the accusation is really saying that their records show someone using your IP address downloaded the material illegally. That IP address allowed them to trace it to the ISP, which knows which customer uses that IP address.

The ISP is a middleman that is legally required to pass on the information; it won’t defend you. However, you have the right to defend yourself in a few different ways. If you’d like to keep your name from being revealed, you can file to quash or vacate (stop) the subpoena by the date listed in the letter. This is best done with the help of an experienced cyber crime defense lawyer, because he or she is an expert and also to keep your identity secret. If you take no action — a common response to an upsetting letter, but not a good one in this case — your name will be released automatically. Waiting even longer could allow you to lose the lawsuit by default. However, you also have some defenses. In some cases, users are mis-identified by an administrative or technical mistake; in others, the computer or modem was used without permission. You may also be able to move the lawsuit if it was filed in a place where you don’t live or visit regularly.

At Seltzer Law, P.A., our cyber crime criminal defense attorneys have the technical as well as the legal skills to defend these types of cases, and we offer defense to clients across the U.S. as well as here in Miami. If you truly don’t believe you downloaded the material that’s the subject of the lawsuit, we can make sure even if the material may have been deleted or moved, then document the state of your hard drive for the court. These cases do happen. Sometimes, another person in the household used the computer; the modem may also have been used without permission by a neighbor or passer-by. Mistakes finding or recording the IP address can also cause mistakes, sometimes leading to accusations against people who don’t have the technical skills to download anything illegally. And if you would rather pay to settle the case, we negotiate aggressively to reach a reasonably sized settlement, rather than putting up with the high settlement offers that some have termed “shakedowns.”

If you’re facing a subpoena for alleged illegal sharing of movie or other media files and you’d like to explore options for defending yourself, call Seltzer Law, P.A., for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach us 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) or send us an email.

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